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Best Practices for Assessing Board Performance in Nonprofits

  • 30th Sep'22

Every successful organization has a dedicated board of directors. Although board members may devote numerous hours to their work, it is reasonable to question whether they are accomplishing their objectives.

Only by conducting an annual board assessment that combines best practices for board assessments can nonprofit boards determine the precise indication of board performance. A complete review of a nonprofit board's success includes a rating of each member's performance as well as the board's overall performance.

It's simple for boards to come up with justifications for not conducting an annual board self-evaluation when it comes to nonprofit administration. Boards don't review themselves because they don't know how to or don't have the time. Directors with prior board experience who haven't conducted self-evaluations may not be motivated to do so on the upcoming board. They might have had positions in nonprofit organizations with distinct goals for themselves. Some seasoned board members may have held positions on boards that didn't always prioritize good governance.


Board Assessment: How to get started?

Every board must start somewhere when conducting board evaluations. It is more challenging to start undertaking board exams if it hasn't been a long-standing routine, but it is still achievable.

Boards that are committed to conducting a board assessment should start by having a general conversation regarding the board's responsibilities. By doing this, the board as a whole will be on the same page and have the same expectations. Put the topic of a board discussion about the board's self-evaluation on your agenda to avoid it being continually forgotten.

In self-evaluation and throughout the year, boards should focus on the following questions:

1. What is the purpose of the nonprofit?

2. How can the board help the organization achieve its goals?


Best practices for nonprofit board assessments advise board directors to think about their roles as board directors in addition to these questions.

Be aware that getting full support from the entire board to undertake board self-evaluations may take some time. Some board members don't completely appreciate the significance of board self-evaluations about good governance procedures. The method can unnecessarily make other board members feel threatened.


Strong board leadership is ensured by board self-assessments

The provision of services to communities that they cannot obtain from the government or on their own depends on nonprofit groups. That is a key justification for nonprofit boards to make sure that their members adhere to the rules of good governance and fully embrace their roles as board members.

On the IRS Form 990, nonprofit organizations are legally obligated to declare their mission statement. Government regulations require nonprofit boards to carry out the goals outlined in their founding papers. Nonprofit boards run the risk of deviating too far from their initial mission and intent if they don't conduct annual board self-assessments.

The board can identify matters that require clarification by using best practices for evaluating board performance, which also guarantees that your charity is offering the service it was designed to.

The future is equally vital to charitable organizations as the present. To maintain effective leadership in a nonprofit organization over the long term, board recruiting must be a continuous process. For the board to decide which of the present board members has the necessary abilities to contemplate asking them to commit to a consecutive term, the annual board performance review should include an assessment of the board's skills. Nonprofit boards should always look ahead and take into account the requirements of the nonprofit's leadership over the next three to five years when considering board recruiting.


How Should Board Performance Be Assessed?

While many nonprofit boards do not evaluate their boards on an annual basis, many nonprofit boards do. These NGOs establish the best procedures for evaluating the effectiveness of boards. It makes it worthwhile to invest the time in researching other charities that have been doing self-assessments over a lengthy period of board assessments that are new for your organization. Experienced nonprofit organizations have a lot to teach us about survey design, running the evaluation process, and what to evaluate.

Best practices for evaluating board performance often call for doing it annually, good preparation, and having a procedure.

The board needs to design a mechanism after the initial discussion about its goals and assumptions for evaluating board performance. You can start by answering the following questions, which will be a great spot to do so:

  • What equipment will you employ? Surveys, online questionnaires, nonprofit-specific templates, or a board management system?

  • Who will oversee the board evaluation? The board president, an impartial moderator, or a committee?

  • Will the evaluation tools be completely anonymous, or will the board disclose the results?

  • Which criteria will the board consider?

  • Will you assess each individual, the board as a whole, or both?



It's crucial to avoid making allowances for novice board members because they might not have enough experience to significantly contribute to their replies for a board assessment.

Utilizing the findings to assist with strategic planning is one of the best practices for evaluating board effectiveness. This is a significant issue that shouldn't be disregarded.

In general, boards should approach the board evaluation process with a laser-like focus on the mission of the nonprofit.



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